Local boy made good Timothy Weber gave Corvallis a taste of the future Friday night with a 40-minute talk on 3D printing to kick off the summer da Vinci Days program.
Weber, a Corvallis native who received his doctorate in engineering from Oregon State University, called himself “head nerd” of HP Inc.’s 3D printing team.
And it seems the nerds are about to take over the world. Again.
“This is fun stuff,” Weber said. “I haven’t worked on something this fun in a long time. This is the fourth industrial revolution, and it’s happening right here in Corvallis.”
Weber ran through the first three such revolutions, a steam-driven one led by Great Britain, a mass-production model led by the United States and a production-automation form that fueled the rise of the Chinese economy.
This revolution, Weber said, will be local, because 3D printing removes the need for raw materials to be shipped to factories in China … with the finished products being shipped back.
“Stuff is going to be built in your town,” Weber said. “In Corvallis and maybe Eugene … well, no, not in Eugene,” he added to laughter from the crowd of more than 100 at the Whiteside Theatre.
Weber was upfront about the dislocations this fourth revolution might produce.
“There are going to be robot trucks on the road 24/7 who will avoid Portland during rush hour, never stop and wipe out two million jobs,” he said. “Whoever figures this out will win … and others will be left behind.”
Also, Weber said, those robot trucks will be made of parts that will inform you when other parts need to be replaced.
Weber emphasized that HP “is not a materials company,” and that it is working with high-wattage international partners such as BMW, Nike, BASF and Siemens on an open-platform basis that all but assuredly will accelerate the pace of innovation — and change.
About two-thirds of the way into the lecture Weber lost this reporter, when he launched into a discussion of HP’s multijet fusion technology. It didn’t get any better when he moved on to fabrication of functional polymer nanocomposites.
Then he reeled it back in when he started talking about the things 3D printers will be able to do with color, elasticity and texture. His example was an automobile tire whose tread would be color-coordinated. When you see red peeking through the tires, you know it's time to head to the tire store. No more pulling quarters out of your pocket to measure tread depth!
During the 20-minute question-and-answer session which followed the talk, Weber dealt with some of the challenges of the technology, including sustainability, recycling of parts, medical applications, semiconductors and zero-gravity possibilities.
Weber noted that there is a 3D printer on the international space station.
“It can’t really repair the space station. Yet,” Weber said.